Bradycardia (Slow Heart Rate)
Milton, who is in his eighties, has an incredibly positive attitude. He is quick to tell people that this wasn’t always the case. When he was 62, Milton began to have episodes of a slow heart rate (bradycardia). “Whenever it would happen, I would feel weak and tired, as though I were in a daze.”
Within days of each episode, Milton would go to his clinic in hopes of learning what was happening to him. But, over the course of a year, by the time he got to the clinic, his heart rate had returned to normal, leaving no clues about what had caused his symptoms. Finally, he was advised to go to the hospital immediately when his symptoms began in order for doctors to run tests during an episode rather than afterward.
One week later, Milton, a high school history teacher for 26 years, was teaching a lesson when he felt an episode coming on. He found another teacher to take over his class and had his wife, Rhoda, take him to the hospital immediately. At the hospital, doctors were able to record Milton’s abnormally slow heartbeat and diagnose him with bradycardia. During additional testing, they discovered that Milton’s bradycardia was caused by Sick Sinus Node Syndrome, a condition in which the heart’s sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker) either cannot begin a heartbeat or cannot increase the heart rate when needed.
He was surprised by the diagnosis. “I exercised and ate right, so it was hard to believe I had a heart condition.”
After an external pacemaker was able to return Milton’s heart rate to normal, his cardiologist recommended an implantable pacemaker as soon as possible. A pacemaker will help protect Milton against future episodes of bradycardia. The next day, Milton received his first Medtronic pacemaker.
“We were thankful that there was a solution but it was still frightening. We didn’t know what I could and couldn’t do with a pacemaker.”
For the first year following his implant procedure, Milton was very concerned about his health and living with a pacemaker. He kept busy with studies for law school, which he started at an age when most people are retiring.
However, Milton, who had been a runner most of his life, eventually grew frustrated with his inactive lifestyle, and decided he couldn’t “just sit around” any longer.
“I didn’t really understand the circumstances then and that a pacemaker is there to help your heart beat at a healthy rate.”
When Milton began exercising again, he started slowly and built up his exercise
regimen over one year to include weight training and running. At the end of the year, Milton was in better shape and able to reduce his medications. Empowered by his renewed health, Milton continued to exercise and, at age 71, signed up for his first Senior Olympics running event. He has been competing ever since and has a collection of medals to show for his efforts, including several gold medals won at various Senior World Olympics events over the years.
Most important of all, Milton has discovered life after heart disease thanks to his pacemaker. Milton has had three different pacemakers over the last 25 years. He is happily married to Rhoda, his wife of over 60 years. Together they have three children and several grandchildren. Milton appreciates the opportunity he has had to enjoy his children and grandchildren in the years since receiving his first heart device.
“I’m grateful to Medtronic for developing the pacemaker. Had they not, I probably wouldn’t be here today.” Results may vary and you need to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of pacemaker therapy.
Milton tries to live each day to the fullest. “My positive attitude and the pacemaker are helping me enjoy a wonderful retirement.”
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.